Microsoft has released polished code for desktop virtualization software to run legacy Windows XP applications on machines loaded with Windows 7.
The company plans to make Windows XP Mode available as a release candidate for testing, with finished product due at the time of the Windows 7 launch on October 22.
Changes to Windows XP Mode are designed to improve integration with Windows 7, so the two worlds share more interface and plumbing features than before.
Meanwhile, Microsoft told The Reg that it will be possible to manage Windows XP Mode in the next version of Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V) system.
Systems administrators will be able to establish their own use settings over those of the end user and patch and update machines. A beta of the second MED-V is due within 90 days of Windows 7's general availability.
Something likely to hold up use of Windows XP Mode is the shortage of PCs whose motherboards can run virtualized software.
As such, AMD has promised that all its chips except the low-end Sempron will include hardware virtualization. Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo will also pledge to support Windows XP Mode on their PCs, but the companies have not said named specific machines.
Intel has also committed to "increase the prevalence" of Core 2 processes that are capable of running virtualization, Microsoft said.
Scott Woodgate, the director of desktop virtualization and Microsoft desktop optimization pack, said Windows XP Mode has been designed for small and mid-market customers, defined as running between one and 25 PCs. It's for SMBs with a favorite Windows XP application and who lack an IT team or the money to manage the upgrade to Windows 7 soon after launch. Otherwise, Woodgate said, you shouldn't delay moving to Windows 7.
Refinements in the Windows XP Mode release candidate include the ability to connect USB-based devices to the virtualized Windows XP desktop inside Windows 7, view recently opened Windows XP applications in the Windows 7 Jump Menu and open them from the task bar, and to choose whether to share documents across Windows XP and Windows 7 via shared drivers.
Woodgate said the company also "felt pretty good" about performance of Windows XP Mode on new PCs and old systems "with the right hardware".
Windows XP Mode was released to testing in April, and The Reg found that integration of Windows XP applications with Windows 7 was patchy while legacy versions of Office responded slowly in the virtualized world that ran inside Windows 7. ®